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Amazing Drummer Nate Smith and “Kinfolk”: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert

Friday, November 10, 2017 21:49
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Nov. 3, 2017 | Suraya Mohamed — Rhythm is the foundation for many a musical experience. Its driving pulse yields a power that quite often demands movement – a toe to tap, a body to sway. But drummer Nate Smith provides more than just a beat. He intentionally weaves nuanced rhythmic counterpoint in and out of his catchy melodies and dulcet harmonies.

Just try to discern the multiple time signatures in the first tune, “Skip Step” Syncopated yet steady, its rhythmic motifs bolster Jon Cowherd’s keyboard riff and the song’s melodic statement, played in unison by saxophonist Jaleel Shaw and guitarist Jeremy Most.

The quintet slides right into “Retold,” a beautiful song with a nostalgic melody that suggests a quiet moment for personal reflection and self-discovery. On “Pages,” Smith welcomed vocalist Amma Whatt to the stage (so to speak). She wrote the lyrics for Smith’s 2017 album Kinfolk: Postcards From Everywhere, his first eponymous record after a 15-year career performing with other jazz artists like Chris Potter and Dave Holland.

What really impressed the audience was the performance of Smith’s self described “short but angry” final tune, “Rambo: The Vigilante.” Hypnotized by its shifting time signatures, this fusion jam is punctuated with a haunting rock lick played simultaneously by the entire band, and seamlessly aligned with Smith’s dazzling display of dexterous genius.

Set List

“Skip Step”
“Rambo: The Vigilante”


Nate Smith (drums); Jaleel Shaw (saxophone); Amma Whatt (vocals); Fima Ephron (bass); Jon Cowherd (keyboard); Jeremy Most (guitar)


Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Producers: Suraya Mohamed, Morgan Noelle Smith; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Niki Walker, Nicholas Garbaty, Alyse Young; Editor: Niki WalkerProduction Assistant: Salvatore Maicki; Photo: Claire Harbage/NPR

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